MORRISON – Jim Duffy, a retired teacher from Sterling, is the new chairman of the Whiteside County Board.
On Monday, the board unanimously elected Duffy, 61, a longtime Democratic member. He replaces Tony Arduini, D-Rock Falls, who served at the helm for more than two decades.
Arduini, 91, who announced last week that he was stepping down as chairman, was unanimously elected vice chairman, replacing Bill McGinn, D-Sterling.
Twenty-six board members took the oath of office. Only Mark Hamilton, R-Fulton, was absent.
Duffy thanked the board for its support.
“I will do the best job I can,” he said.
He immediately passed out a sheet with all of his standing committee assignments. The committee chairmen will stay the same, with the exception of the County Offices Committee, where Jim Arduini, D-Rock Falls, is taking the place of Duffy. The Executive Committee’s chairman is always the board chairman.
On Monday, members made no mention of a private, unannounced session that the County Board’s Democratic majority held last week. The Democrats said they discussed the selection of the board chairman and vice chairman at that meeting.
Watchdog groups contend the majority broke the state Open Meetings Act by holding the meeting. That law requires public bodies to discuss official business in advertised public meetings.
The Democrats, however, say their meeting was legal. Before the private session, they warned a Sauk Valley Media reporter that they would call the police if he stayed, with Glenn Truesdell, D-Rock Falls, saying he’d be willing to “throw [the reporter’s] ass out.” The reporter left.
Truesdell remains chairman of the Finance Committee. He also was elected the board’s temporary chairman Monday night before the board selected a permanent chairman.
In an interview after Monday’s meeting, Duffy said he put his name forward as a chairman candidate during the private session last Wednesday, but no decision was made. No one else expressed interest in the position, he said.
To justify their closed meeting, Duffy and others are citing an attorney general’s opinion that says political party committees are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. But Don Craven, an attorney for the Illinois Press Association, who specializes in open government law, said the County Board isn’t considered a party committee.
Thursday, Sauk Valley Media filed a complaint with the state attorney general, contending the board violated the Open Meetings Act.
Duffy said the county would wait to see how the attorney general rules. He said he believed the County Board’s Democratic majority could only meet privately to discuss the chairman and vice chairman positions. No other discussion of public business would be permitted, he said.
The County Board’s Democrats said former State’s Attorney Gary Spencer, a Republican, said a meeting of the board’s Democratic caucus was legal. Spencer, whose term ended last week, didn’t return a message for comment.
His successor, Trish Joyce, a Democrat who started Monday, said she didn’t know enough about the issue to comment.